Over two decades of friendship and bells
The breakout success of New Horizons makes it easy to forget just how small Animal Crossing was at one point. The franchise’s unassuming debut in Japan was 21 years ago today, which makes this the perfect occasion to look back at Dōbutsu no Mori - the birth of everyone’s favorite communication game.
Dōbutsu no Mori originally began development for the Nintendo 64 DD, a magnetic floppy disk drive for the Nintendo 64. While the peripheral never made it out of Japan and was considered a commercial failure, the game itself shifted development to the base N64 as a cartridge game, and it saw release on April 14th, 2001.
The game, translated as Animal Forest, plopped the player into a land where they are the only human character among a town full of walking, talking animals. Described as a social simulator akin to The Sims, Dōbutsu no Mori’s main objectives are to befriend the animals, work, and earn money to pay off your loans (which is handled through a particularly demanding Tanuki some compare to a loan shark!). The cast of core animals in your town ranged from a moody pelican who worked the late shift at the post office, a fashion-centric giraffe with no qualms about judging your choices in style, an angry gopher that caused a ruckus if you didn’t save properly, and plenty of others.
In addition to building out your house and working for the local shopkeep (Tom Nook), you could watch morning exercises near the front of town; a feature brought back in the 2.0 update of New Horizons as a bit of fan service. A humble dog will come and perform a song with only his stool, guitar, and pride; no cafe or special fanfare for him here! You could also spend some time catching bugs and fish to make a quick buck (Bell), but don’t expect to have Blathers give them a once-over, as there’s no museum in Dōbutsu no Mori. Fossils are still present, but you have to mail them off for examination and wait days to get a response.
Because the 64DD had a time-keeping method, Dōbutsu no Mori was designed to be a real-time game, meaning it was one of the first of its kind in which the actual time of day would affect gameplay. If it was 7am in real life, the sun would be rising in your town. Conversely, if it was 10pm, you could witness shooting stars and constellations in your town’s night sky. The date would also come into play, as major holidays would change the scenery with elements like snow in the winter and cherry blossoms in the Spring. There would even be special characters to celebrate events with you. With the game moving away from the 64DD, Nintendo had to come up with a different solution. For this reason, Dōbutsu no Mori is the only N64 cartridge to have a battery-powered clock, which allowed it to retain all of these gameplay features.
The unique nature of Dōbutsu no Mori certainly piqued interest, but one element created more buzz than any other. In the game, players could find or buy items that allowed them to play original Famicom/NES games in full screen. Games such as Donkey Kong, Balloon Fight and Pinball were among the first selections, and later variations of the game would add even more titles. You have to wonder if this feature was included as a way to gauge interest in re-releasing classic games, as Nintendo found great success with this very idea years later.
Even with how wholesome the series is considered today, Dōbutsu no Mori was not without controversy. Some of the villager dialogue was seen as borderline offensive, with the Resetti character coming off so harsh in his admonishments that kids cried, leading to complaints from parents. Some issues of gender also made waves, as Gracie, the aforementioned fashion giraffe, is a male in the Japanese and South Korean versions, but was changed to female for the American localization.
Dōbutsu no Mori would eventually be ported to the Nintendo GameCube in Japan in 2001, and then finally make its big North American debut as Animal Crossing in the Fall of 2002. While marketed as a new franchise to American audiences, its N64 roots were very evident to players in terms of graphical presentation.
This GameCube adaptation would introduce characters and buildings that would become mainstays in the series, such as Blathers and his Museum and the Able Sisters and their clothing design shop. Some animals underwent minor changes, with Tom Nook shedding his Tanuki origins in exchange for raccoon roots. Multiplayer options were also introduced, which required you to save your town to a memory card to take it to a friend’s console. Connecting a Game Boy Advance would give you access to a vacation island where even more goodies and mini-games could be found. Finally, more NES games would be added for the player to enjoy. Oddly enough, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda would never be distributed, and were only accessible via cheating methods.
Animal Crossing’s English release led to Dōbutsu no Mori e+, an enhanced Japanese version of the game that launched in 2003. As Nintendo was quite impressed with the additions the American Animal Crossing localization team made, many of these elements were included in Dōbutsu no Mori e+ for Japanese audiences to enjoy. This only helped the series get an even bigger following in Japan, which helped pave the way for all sorts of merch and side content, and eventually, the Dōbutsu no Mori animated film.
Dōbutsu no Mori is a game that grew its reputation off of its uniqueness. It promoted building friendship along with the responsibility of working and earning a living, all under the candy coating of an endearing, kid-friendly presentation. This distinct feeling and undeniable appeal helped the Animal Crossing franchise grow into one of Nintendo’s most successful of all-time. While the mechanics and features of the original Dōbutsu no Mori might seem basic by today’s standards, it’s those humble beginnings that helped foster Animal Crossing fans in the first place.
The original catchphrase of Animal Crossing was “Population: Growing!,” and the charm of Dōbutsu no Mori certainly laid the groundwork for a fan base that continues to expand today. From the moment players stepped off that train and into a brave new world, a love affair began, and it’s a thriving relationship over 20 years later.
Happy 21st anniversary, Dōbutsu no Mori!
Are you the weakest link?
Nintendo’s popular mini quiz game Can YOU Guess That Game? is back with episode five!
How did you do?
The debut of Wii Sports successor Nintendo Switch Sports is just over two weeks away and Nintendo has shared a brief video highlighting Badminton - one of the six starting sports offered in the base game.
Badminton is one of three new sports making an appearance, with the others being soccer and volleyball. Tennis, bowling, and chambara return from the classic Wii franchise with golf being planned for a fall update.
Nintendo Switch Sports is slated for an April 29th release.
Judged by the Regginator
Former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime tweeted today about his upcoming participation in IGN’s Rogue Jam, a competition that offers a publishing deals to indie developers and prize money to help get their game and vision off the ground.
Reggie will be one of multiple judges that will offer his expert feedback and critiques.
The Rogue Jam 2022 schedule and themes are as follows:
Episode 1 - Huge Potential: Monday, April 18 at 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST / Tuesday, April 19 at 2am AEST.
Episode 2 - Eye-Poppingly Beautiful: Monday, April 25 at 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST / Tuesday, April 26 at 2am AEST.
Episode 3 - WTF?: Monday, May 2 at 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST / Tuesday, May 3 at 2am AEST.
Episode 4 - Overall Winner : Monday, May 9 at 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST / Tuesday, May 10 at 2am AEST.
Episode 5 - Audience Choice: Monday, May 16 at 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST / Tuesday, May 17 at 2am AEST.
For more information on the contest and how you can stream the show, visit IGN’s Rogue Jam 2022 info page.
Gotta Draw 'Em All
Art has long been a staple of how fans can show appreciation and devotion to their favorite video game franchises and characters. And this year, the Pokémon Company recognizes that talent and is holding the third annual Pokémon TCG Illustration Contest.
They recently announced the top 300 submissions out of over a thousand applicants, and you can view all of their work at the official Pokémon TCG Illustration Contest website!
More than meets the ear
The Town Tune in the Animal Crossing franchise has long been a staple of symbolic creativity from the original game all the way through New Horizons. It’s a short little melody in which the player can customize that will echo throughout their town at the top of each hour, and a hint of it will also play when entering buildings and speaking to their villagers.
But while many fans know the sound of the tune varies depending on the situation and context of when it plays, YouTube channel Re:Direct did some extensive research on the matter. What they discovered goes far beyond simple randomness and actually ties into a deeper context. For starters, it is clear the town tune sounds just slightly different from villager to villager, but did you know the tone and difference in the presentation is actually based on the personality of the animal you are speaking to?
And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Check out the video below as it takes a very deep dive into the endless variations that your simple tune can take and the meanings behind them.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons debuted on the Nintendo Switch in March of 2020 and has become the second biggest selling game on the platform to date with over 37 million copies sold.
Examining the changes
YouTube channel justonegamr has uploaded a graphics and content comparison video between the North American and Japanese versions of The House of the Dead: Remake. The first segment is a side-by-side look at both variations, followed by game play segments of each edition individually.
Of note in the pinned comment, justonegamr notes the reasons for the altered and toned down content in the Japanese release:
“Just to further explain what’s going on. Violence in videos games gets toned down quite a bit in Japan, especially with dismemberment. I first heard about this when the demo of RE2 Remake was released. So with the release of THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD Remake, changes to the game were made with its release in Japan. As you can see in the video, bodies don’t fall apart into pieces and instead glow brighter in the affected areas. Also, you can’t kill any of the scientists with your weapons. Due to that last fact, there are actually less achievements in the Japanese version of the game. Don’t know for sure if this is all the changes with the Japanese version, but it’s what I’ve noticed most. The dismemberment doesn’t affect gameplay really, but the inability to harm scientists certainly does. So yeah, just something I figured I should share since it became apparent to me that the Japanese version I bought in order to play the game early was actually less gory compared to other regions.”
The House of the Dead: Remake is available digitally now on the Nintendo Switch eShop and a physical release set for later in the Spring.
The Genesis of something great
The much anticipated movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is finally out in theaters worldwide, and voice actor Ben Schwartz shared a fun behind-the-scenes photo from the very first time he “donned” the voice of Sonic.
As for Sonic 2 itself, the movie has done big numbers domestically so far in first day box office previews, and is expected to lead the worldwide box office by a wide margin this weekend.
A Portfolio of Gems
An artist and fan has shared on Twitter a collection of statues they have created inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the results are head turning.
The artist, ediothian, has also shared numerous pictures of more Zelda-inspired work - including art from other franchise games such as Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword, on their Instagram page. We encourage you to visit it and take in the talent and dedication yourselves!
Gotta Go Fast
Going to see Sonic the Hedgehog 2 this weekend? You may be in for a special treat.
IDW Publishing has tweeted that a free Sonic comic book will be available at select showings of the hotly anticipated sequel!
No specific word on which theaters, and these will also presumably be in limited quantities at the locations that are participating. Regardless, this looks to be a pretty nice extra surprise for some fans who Sonic Speed their way to the theaters this coming weekend.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens nationwide in North American theaters on Friday.
Go Splat Yourself
With the hype building for Splatoon 3, Nintendo realizes that not everyone may be fully aware of the Splatoon universe and what an Octoling is. To remedy this, the official Splatoon Twitter account has tweeted out a thread to get newcomers up to speed.
Click on the above tweet and read the entire thread - whether you need a refresher or something to satisfy your appetite to while you wait to go splat someone in the brand new chapter. Splatoon 3 is still on track for a summer 2022 release on the Nintendo Switch.
No hard feelings
Nintendo has taken to Twitter to announce details of the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North American Open for April.
As posted on the official NintendoVS site:
Pick up your sword (or fists, or whip, or hammer, or blaster…you get the idea) for the NintendoVS North American Open April 2022 tournament featuring the Super Smash Bros.™ Ultimate game.
Eligible players in the US, Canada, and Mexico can enter the fray for an opportunity to win prizes like My Nintendo™ Gold Points to redeem on Nintendo eShop, and a Nintendo Switch™ carrying case. The grand prize also includes a trophy, a gaming chair and other awesome prizes! The tournament will take place April 22 from 6PM-9PM PT and April 23 at 11AM PT with a live stream of the finals at 4PM PT.
Registration is open now! Players are assigned regions during the registration process (see Select your Region section below for more details) and the registration period for all regions ends April 22, 2022, at approximately 3:00 PM PT.
For more details or to see the official rules, visit the NintendoVS website.
A full deck
Good news for those on the hunt for Animal Crossing amiibo cards! Popular YouTuber NintenTalk uploaded a video describing his success in finding a restock of amiibo card packs spanning the entire collection of sets at Target.
His store had packs from each series - including the most recent Series 5 that came with the 2.0 update. He also points out that these are indeed repackaged reprints as the artwork and games advertised on the back of the earlier series have changed to include references to Harv’s Island.
My local Target is one of the lucky ones who has a plentiful amount of packs from all five series sets available. Searching on Target’s website will reveal if packs are available and at what locations, but typically store pick-up is not an option only due to store limitations on quantities sold per person. No word yet on if other retailers are experiencing similar restocks.
Step into the mask of Dr. Robotnik - thanks to a new Snapchat filter in promotion of the upcoming movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
The official Sonic Movie Twitter feed shared the following tweet with Snapchat QR code and encouraged everyone to share their pics with the hashtag #Robotnik.
As for the movie itself, it is currently out in some regions of the world but is still on track for release into North American theaters next Friday, April 8th.
Fire and Ghost Type FTW
The Fire/Ghost type Alolan Marowak will be the research breakthrough reward offered in Pokémon GO for the month of April, according to Serebii.net.
Is this a Pokémon you are excited about?